Aluminum is the most widely used non-ferrous metal. Global production of aluminum in 2005 was 31.9 million tons. It exceeded that of any other metal except iron (837.5 million tonnes). Forecast for 2012 is 42–45 million tons, driven by rising Chinese output. Aluminum is almost always alloyed, which markedly improves its mechanical properties, especially when tempered. For example, the common aluminum foils and beverage cans are alloys of 92% to 99% aluminum. The main alloying agents are copper, zinc, magnesium, manganese, and silicon (e.g., duralumin) and the levels of these other metals are in the range of a few percent by weight.
Some of the many uses for aluminum metal are in:
- Transportation (automobiles, aircraft, trucks, railway cars, marine vessels, bicycles, etc.) as sheet, tube, castings, etc.
- Packaging (cans, foil, etc.)
- Construction (windows, doors, siding, building wire, etc.).
- A wide range of household items, from cooking utensils to baseball bats, watches.
- Street lighting poles, sailing ship masts, walking poles, etc.
- Outer shells of consumer electronics, also cases for equipment e.g. photographic equipment.
- Electrical transmission lines for power distribution
- MKM steel and Alnico magnets
- Super purity aluminum (SPA, 99.980% to 99.999% Al), used in electronics and CDs.
- Heat sinks for electronic appliances such as transistors and CPUs.
- Substrate material of metal-core copper clad laminates used in high brightness LED lighting.
- Powdered aluminum is used in paint, and in pyrotechnics such as solid rocket fuels and thermite.
- Aluminum can be reacted with hydrochloric acid or with sodium hydroxide to produce hydrogen gas.
- A variety of countries, including France, Italy, Poland, Finland, Romania, Israel, and the former Yugoslavia, have issued coins struck in aluminum or aluminum-copper alloys.
- Some guitar models sport aluminum diamond plates on the surface of the instruments, usually either chrome or black. Kramer Guitars and Travis Bean are both known for having produced guitars with necks made of aluminum, which gives the instrument a very distinct sound.
Aluminum is usually alloyed – it is used as pure metal only when corrosion resistance and/or workability is more important than strength or hardness. A thin layer of aluminum can be deposited onto a flat surface by physical vapor deposition or (very infrequently) chemical vapor deposition or other chemical means to form optical coatings and mirrors.